Lake Karrinyup Country Club

The 2nd hole at Lake Karrinyup, Brendan James

For more than five decades Lake Karrinyup was widely considered one of Australia’s classic courses. It first won national acclaim when it hosted the 1952 Australian Open, won by Norman von Nida. The Open returned in 1960 and 1968, with a young Bruce Devlin and the great Jack Nicklaus cleaning up, and the accolades continued to gather. Even in 2002 and 2003, when it hosted the Johnnie Walker Classic, praise was high for this Alex Russell-designed layout that first opened for play in 1928. But those last two events highlighted a few deficiencies in the design – simply because of the modern leaps in club and ball technology. It fell to Mike Clayton, the former tour player and one of Australia’s most exciting course designers, to oversee a multi-million dollar redesign and bring Lake Karrinyup into the 21st century.

This at times dramatically undulating land was originally covered in dense tuart forest, with a few swampy areas. The high point of the site was selected for the clubhouse and Russell routed his layout in two loops away from there. The routing remains the same to this day. Clayton’s biggest changes, made throughout 2007 and 2008, were to rebuild every bunker and green until they more closely resembled Russell’s original instructions as to how he wanted them.

‘The club had Russell’s original drawings,’ Clayton recalls. ‘Many of the original greens – the 1st, 3rd, 7th, 8th, 12th, 14th and 15th – had been changed over the years, and quite a few had developed too much slope, such as the 6th, 11th, 16th and 18th. So 11 of the greens had serious issues.’ Clayton lengthened some holes – the 3rd, 11th, 13th and 14th – with new back tees. Others, such as the 12th and 18th, were shortened, against the modern trend. Courtesy of Clayton’s work, the bunkering is now a memorable feature of any round here. From your opening tee shot, bunkers are staring you in the face, making you think hard about every shot, every club selection . . . Large bunkers short and long of the green at the 274-metre, par-four 1st hole present a more ominous spectacle than the ones they replaced. The greenside traps on the long par-four 2nd are just as intimidating. Perhaps the most talked-about bunker sits in the middle of the fairway on the 11th, a 506-metre uphill par-five. Shaped like a short-cut bacon rasher, it forces you to fret over your playing line from the tee, rather than blazing away absent-mindedly. The perfect line, one that shortens the hole for longer hitters vying to hit the green in two shots, is to the right of the bunker – but this is a very narrow strip of land.

Clayton also addressed another issue that had drawn criticism of Lake Karrinyup. ‘The course,’ he says, ‘had always favoured a right-to-left player, especially off the tee . . . So we paid attention to redressing the balance a little for the left-to-right player. For example, the 13th and 18th holes both favoured big hooked tee shots, and then both greens favoured a draw as well. We turned those greens around to have them favour a left-to-right shape. We also took out some trees that had been planted inside Russell’s original tree-clearing lines and had grown up and out. They’d altered the design intent and hurt the integrity of some holes.’

Lake Karrinyup is a private club. Golfers from interstate or overseas can apply in advance for a tee time with the general manager.

Memorable holes

1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th, 12th and 14th

Where to go

North Beach Rd, Karrinyup, WA 6018

Book a round

(08) 9422 8222,

Where to stay

Resorts, serviced apartments and plenty of other accommodation options can be found in the beachside suburb of Scarborough, less than five minutes from the course.

Before/after your round

Dive, snorkel, fi sh or swim at Marmion Marine Park. Tours operate from Hillarys Boat Harbour, a short drive from Lake Karrinyup.

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